“We actually go back to the beginning”: After launching in London, the TikTok-focused News Movement comes to the U.S.
This piece was originally published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
The News Movement is an English-language news outlet with a strong focus on social media. Founded by former executives from Dow Jones and the BBC, it employs 30 people based in London and New York, and has experienced fast growth across platforms since its launch at the beginning of 2021.
At the time of writing, it has 63,000 followers on TikTok, 19,000 subscribers on YouTube, 6,500 followers on Twitter and 5,100 on Instagram. Most of these people are very young: More than half of The News Movement’s TikTok views and half of its YouTube views come from people under 24. The company plans to use branded content, collaborations with companies to produce their social content, and digital tipping and micropayments as revenue streams.
In October, after a few months in beta mode, The News Movement officially launched in the United States. I spoke to The News Movement’s head of audience, Valentina Park, about what this launch means, what it’s like working on social media, and what makes The News Movement stand out.
We redesigned the site, we put out new creative assets. We also announced a partnership with [music company] UnitedMasters: when you think about audio and visual, they always tend to go hand in hand, so we’re trying to bring that back with that partnership so that we can put a soundtrack to the news. And then we had an event in New York, where our journalists and our editor-in-chief got to tell the group about how The News Movement builds stories and what kind of stories we cover.
In terms of what we cover, we make sure that listening is first and foremost. So, rather than saying “Here’s a news agenda that we’re going to share with you,” it’s thinking, what do these audiences actually care about? What do they want to be? What are they already actively talking about? What do we know that they will be interested in engaging with? So inviting them in.
So in the beginning, we tried a bunch of things to see what kinds of stories were resonating and what format was resonating and tried to drill down from there. A format that has become a pretty big staple for us is our explainers — providing context to things that are happening around the world that, especially, these younger audiences care about. They have an inherent curiosity about the world around them.
Our editor-in-chief Kamal Ahmed [former editorial director of the BBC] often says, “News often starts at season six, episode four.” So that’s not our starting point. We actually go back to the beginning and try to provide context as to how we got there, and why we are where we are. One of our first successful TikTok videos that surpassed over a million views is our explainer of where Ukraine is on a map. This was right as the conflict started to bubble up. And in the news, all you heard was, “Russia and Ukraine, Russia is trying to invade Ukraine.” But then we thought, “Do people understand why is that happening?” So we went back to this. And if you look at Ukraine and Russia on a map, that geography is actually really important as context as to why that conflict even exists.
Russia says it’s sending troops to eastern Ukraine. What’s really going on and why? : AP #russia #ukraine #russiaukraine #russiaukrainecrisis #russiaukraineconflict #putin #donbass #donetsk #luhansk #learnontiktok #ukrainian #russia #russian
♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic
The conversation is happening on social platforms. So when you make social platforms the primary place for your news and the primary touch point for your content, it’s really important to listen to what the audiences are talking about and care about and it’s really important to look through the comments actively, having our journalists do so through their own accounts, as well as through our what we call the masthead account.
We try to speak to people and respond within the comment section. And then we also try to create stories off of that. So we did a piece around disabilities and Wireless Festival in the U.K. and how it wasn’t set up in a way to really support disabled people. And we did that by handing over the mic to the people whose story it was, rather than us telling that story for them. And then as we got a ton of engagement around it, we noticed that people really wanted follow-up information: has anything changed? People were sharing their own personal experiences at festivals. So we continued the story by doing a duet with our own content to give that update, saying “We’ve continued to reach out to Wireless Festival but we haven’t actually heard back” and making sure that audiences weren’t left hanging.
Disabled people who went to Wireless Festival this weekend say the accessibility was ‘abysmal’ Ketouche Goll / Getty #access #accessibility #disability #disabilitytiktok #disabilityawareness #festival #festivalseason #music #wireless #chrisbrown #asaprocky #riconasty #cardib #trapstar #flomilli #mobility #wheelchair
The other way that we [have a conversation with our audience] is through Lives. When the Queen passed away, we did a TikTok Live: Our journalists went out onto the streets and started talking to people. As people were tuning in, we responded. People were asking questions about what it was like and they were also paying their respects through the Live.
50k views on our TikTok LIVE in Downing Street earlier @thenewsmovement pic.twitter.com/FtX8rLNfBm
— Emma Bentley (@EmmaLBentley) October 25, 2022
One of the core topic areas that we cover fairly regularly is female athletes. So, showing the types of things that female athletes are going through, their experiences and also celebrating their wins. The [UEFA] Women’s Euro was also something that we actively followed.
The reason we created this process is to make sure that we’re serving our audiences. So rather than having the audience team say, ‘We’re just going to give you insights,’ and then the newsroom going off and making those changes or carrying on, this process kind of breaks down those walls a little bit. It’s definitely more integrated. And as far as the process goes, it helps us understand why we’re doing this story. We can set goals around what we want this story to achieve. We can also make sure that we’re being nimble as the story evolves and set it up in a way so that we can actually track its performance, both on the individual story level, as well as holistically by publishing through a platform like Sprinklr, which we’ve recently brought on, and then also test for different formats. Sprinklr has all of the standard metrics that you expect to see in the native platforms such as follower breakdowns, post views and engagements for each platform. What we find most useful, though, are the custom formulas and visualizations that we can apply based on what we’re searching for. For example, I’m able to see when a TikTok video picks up traction and for how long, which is much harder to do via native analytics.
So we don’t think of our site as just a linear opportunity but as an opportunity for our audience to learn more, especially when they’re in discovery and learn mode. We don’t want the site to just be a regurgitation of what our stories are on social, we want it to be a value-add.
Marina Adami is a journalist at the Reuters Institute for Digital Journalism, where this piece originally ran.
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